Use the tangible Easter traditions to teach the intangible truths about Jesus

Easter
Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, is our most important Christian holiday. Because it comes at springtime, some of our traditions at Easter are actually a part of the pagan springtime celebration.  The name Easter is from Eostre, an Anglo Saxon goddess of Spring. The resurrection of Jesus coincided with the springtime celebration for this goddess.   Through the years Christians began to incorporate the pagan springtime traditions with their celebration of the Resurrection.

But that was ok, according to Pope Gregory in AD 695, as long as they gave new meaning to the pagan traditions. The Pope wrote a letter to Saint Mellitus as Mellitus was on his way to England to conduct missionary work among the pagan Anglo-Saxons. Pope Gregory suggested that converting heathens would go easier if they were allowed to retain the outward forms of their traditional pagan practices and traditions, while reinterpreting those traditions spiritually towards the Christian God instead of to their pagan “devils”.

So let’s heed Pope Gregory’s suggestion. Use the tangible, familiar Easter traditions to teach the intangible truths about Jesus to our children:

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Easter basket – Middle Eastern cultures had spring traditions of celebrating the first seedlings of their new crops. They brought them in baskets to their temples for sacrifices so that their gods would continue to bless the crops for the rest of the year. But Easter gives us the assurance that God will continue to bless us because of the once and for all sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ.

Here are some suggestions for relating the Easter basket to Jesus:

  • Easter basket is woven together like the crown of thorns
  • Easter grass is like hay in the manger for baby Jesus
  • Bag of gold or silver covered chocolate coins represent the betrayal of Jesus by Judas
  • Chocolate rooster is a reminder of Peter’s three denials of Jesus
  • One empty hollow plastic egg to represent the empty tomb
  • Marshmallow chicks, bunnies remind us of new life and new birth
  • And always put a cross in the basket.  It can be a chocolate one or possibly one you have made together.

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Bunnies – In the 13th century hares and rabbits were symbols of fertility because they reproduce so rapidly. Rabbits were the sacred animal of Eostre, the goddess of Spring and fertility. A possible reason for the link between the rabbit and the egg comes from the Pagans associating the rabbit with the moon and the egg with the sun.  Easter comes during the spring equinox when day and night are the same length, thus the rabbit and the egg are together.

The bunny can be a reminder of the Resurrection.  The bunny stays underground much of the winter and comes out in spring. Jesus was in the tomb 3 days and then came out of the tomb alive!

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Colored Eggs – The Bible tells us in Revelation 21:5 that Jesus makes all things new. The eggs remind of us of new life.  Jesus gives us new life when we become a Christian.

The coloring reminds us of how beautiful the world is as it comes back to life after the winter. This is a reminder of Jesus coming back to life on Easter morning over 2000 years ago.

Each color can be used to talk about Jesus:

  • Red is for the blood Jesus shed on the cross for us
  • Green is for the grass and trees He made
  • Blue is for the sky and water He made
  • Yellow is for the sun that shines brightly
  • Orange and pink are for the flowers that are blooming
  • White is for His cleansing us from all our sins by His taking the punishment for us on the cross
  • Purple is a color for kings and Jesus is the King of kings

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Hiding Eggs – The history of hiding eggs goes back to possibly when the Pagans used eggs in their Spring celebrations. After early Christian influence, the Pagans hid their eggs to avoid persecution.  Another possible reason for hiding eggs is because they were forbidden during Lent, so symbolically they were hidden and found at the end of Lent.

Before you hide the eggs this year, share with your children that the true meaning of the holiday gets hidden in the activities of the season and we need to hunt for the true meaning – that Jesus died for us and is risen from the dead.

Put Bible verses in some of the eggs you hide and then gather together to read them all after they are found.  Some suggested verses are:

  • Revelation 21:5  Jesus makes all things new.
  • Galatians 2:20  Jesus Christ lives.
  • Matthew 28:6  Jesus is risen.
  • Song of Solomon 2:12  The flowers appear on the earth.
  • Song of Solomon 2:12 The time of the singing of birds has come
  • Ecclesiastes 3:1 God made everything beautiful
  • Psalm 103:5 God satisfies my mouth with good things.

Make one egg empty like the tomb and give a prize for the one who finds that egg which represents the true message of Easter, that Jesus is alive!

Have a happy Easter with your children, enjoying the traditional Easter activities and relating them to the greatest event in history – the sacrificial death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!!!

For more information and resources for celebrating Easter with your children, just search ‘Easter’ on this site.

 

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Spring is Here – Time to Praise the Lord

Spring-Tulips-yellow-and-red

The flowers are springing up,
and the time of singing birds has come,
even the cooing of turtledoves.
Song 2:12 

 In Matthew 6:25-34 , Jesus must have been enjoying spring time as He taught His friends about how much God loves them.  He noticed the birds flying around and said,  “Look at the birds! They aren’t worried about having enough to eat because God feeds them.  In the same way, you shouldn’t worry about what you will eat.  God will feed you too!”  Then Jesus picked up some flowers that were blooming and said, “These flowers don’t have to worry about what they will wear because God has beautifully clothed them.  You don’t need to worry about clothes either for God will make sure you have something to wear.”

I hope your main activity with your children during this season can be outside enjoying nature together. Share with them that the Bible says in Psalm 145:10 that all God’s works shall praise Him.

As yall observe the beauty of God’s creation, join with the flowers, trees, and birds in praising God.  Here’s some songs to sing as you do.

This one is an old recording, but you can get the idea, or better yet, you can make up your own:

 Now the Flowers Are Growing

And another about God’s Beautiful World:

http://youtu.be/AbWgeJOMQ4U

Isaiah 55:12 says the mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! So even if we don’t praise the Lord, creation still will.  Here’s a song about this that was recorded for me and my children by a friend, Patti Bennett:

 The Rocks and Hills Will Cry Out

These next two are from children’s musicals when my children were small.  Yeah, I know they are dated, but give them a listen:

http://youtu.be/W8wFjhWztcw

http://youtu.be/HLsh3lwKv5c

Happy Spring!!!

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History of St Patrick’s Day (A Lesson in Forgiveness)

 

 

Did you or your children ever wonder why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?    I’m not sure what lies behind some of the traditions associated with the day, but the man that the holiday is named for has a story children need to hear.

Did you know Patrick isn’t Irish? About 385 years after Jesus lived, Patrick was born into a wealthy English family.  When he was 16 years old, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave where he worked as a shepherd.  During this time he was lonely and afraid; this caused him to turn to God with his whole heart and he began to experience the love of Jesus..  After about 6 years as a slave, Patrick escaped and returned to his home country where he began studying to be a priest.

However, he did not forget Ireland; he had a desire to go back one day and tell them about Jesus.  He did eventually return there as a missionary.  Isn’t that amazing that he would want to go back to the place where he had been enslaved and tell them of God’s love?  What an act of forgiveness! Eventually Patrick was called a saint by the Catholic Church because of his love and kindness to the people of Ireland.

So because Jesus loved Patrick, Patrick was able to love and forgive the people of Ireland and then he spent his life telling them about Jesus. Patrick died on March 17, 461 and now we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day each March 17.

Please make your children aware in the midst of the stories of leprechans and the various ways of observing the holiday, that the reason for the activities this week is because Jesus loved and cared for Patrick and then Patrick loved and care for the people who had wronged him.  It would be a good time to share these verses:

Ephes. 4:32     And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
John 15:12     This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

It is believed that Patrick brought the shamrock plant to Ireland and used the three-leafed plant to illustrate the message of the Trinity. This would be a good time to teach about the Trinity.  Click here for help in sharing the concept with your children.  A good children’s book to illustrate the Trinity is 3 in 1: A Picture of God.

Go outside and look for clover and talk about the Trinity; be like St. Patrick teaching the Irish.  Color this picture and scripture as you talk.

Order a shamrock craft at Apples for the Teacher.

Order this illustrated book about Patrick:

Watch this 8 minute Veggie Tale story of St. Patrick: http://youtu.be/UociNQHztiY

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Presidents’ Day – Celebrating Two Great Presidents!

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Presidents’ Day is intended to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln whose birthdays are both in February.  Their birthdays were observed separately until 1971 when Congress decided the two would be combined into one national holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February.

This is a great time to teach your children about the godly character of these two men. God tells us to remember how He dealt with our ancestors: 1 Cor. 10:1 Remember our history, friends, and be warned. All our ancestors were led by the providential Cloud and taken miraculously through the Sea.

George Washington:

Tell about the truthfulness of George Washington even as a young boy in the story of the cherry tree.  Here is a site that tells the story and has printable coloring pictures:

George Washington, sometime before the age of 14, transcribed “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior In Company and Conversation.” Check them out here and see which ones are still good rules to teach your children.

Read at this site and then share with excitement in your own words about how God divinely protected George Washington during the French and Indian War.  You can read the entire account of this in the book  The Bulletproof George Washington

Abraham Lincoln:

Tell why Abraham Lincoln became known as ‘Honest Abe’.  Read about it here and get printable coloring sheets as well.

Read this article about the faith of Abraham Lincoln.  This is what he said before the Battle of Gettysburg” . . . oppressed by the gravity of our affairs, I went to my room one day and locked the door and got down on my knees before almighty God and prayed to Him mightily for victory at Gettysburg. I told Him that this war was His, and our cause His cause . . . Then and there I made a solemn vow to almighty God that if He would stand by our boys at Gettysburg, I would stand by Him. And after that, I don’t know how it was, and I cannot explain it, soon a sweet comfort crept into my soul. The feeling came that God had taken the whole business into His own hands, and that things would go right at Gettysburg. . .” from Abraham Lincoln: The Man & His Faith

Here’s an excellent interactive site for both presidents.

We can use this day to pray for our current president and leaders as well.  They have been placed in their position by God: Daniel 2:21 He changes times and periods of history.He removes kings and establishes them. He gives wisdom to those who are wise and knowledge to those who have insight. Download this coloring sheet that gives suggestions of what to pray for our leaders.

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How did Valentine’s Day begin?

As always, we want our children to know the reason for any celebration and see how it might relate to Christ.  Here’s what my research found:

Historical Information:

Valentine was a priest near Rome in about 270 AD.  At that time the Roman Emperor Claudius felt that married men made poor soldiers so he abolished marriage.  Valentine  invited young lovers to come to him in secret where he joined them in marriage.  When the emperor heard of this ‘friend of lovers’, he was impressed with his conviction and attempted to convert him to the Roman gods while Valentine attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity.  When Valentine would not renounce Christianity, he was imprisoned.

While in prison, he witnessed to the guards.  One of the guards had adopted a blind girl and asked Valentine if his God could help the daughter see again.  Valentine prayed and the girl was given her sight.  The guard and his whole family believed in Jesus and were baptized.  Valentine fell in love with the girl.  When the emperor heard about Valentine making converts in prison, he was furious and had Valentine beheaded.

Before Valentine died, he signed a farewell message to his love and signed it ‘from your Valentine’, a phrase that has lived long after its author died.  Thus began the sending of  Valentines.

Because of Valentine’s dedication to the Lord, he was made a saint by the Catholic church.   The church was seeking to usurp the popularity of the Roman god Lupercus.  At the Lupercusian festival each year around the middle of February, a young man was assigned a woman companion for his ‘pleasure’ until the next year at the festival when he would get a different woman.  The Catholic church was determined to put an end to this 800 year old immoral practice and Valentine seemed to be the ideal candidate to become a ‘lovers’ saint.

How to Share This with Children:

The ruler of Rome, Emperor Claudius, thought there were many gods, but a man named Valentine loved God with all his heart and told people that Jesus is the one true God.  This made the Emperor Claudius very angry so he had Valentine put in jail.  But even in jail, Valentine kept telling people about Jesus.  The guard in the prison had a blind daughter and he asked Valentine if God could heal her.  Valentine prayed for her and God caused her to see again.  The guard and his whole family believed in Jesus after that and loved God with all their hearts.

The emperor was so upset when he heard that Valentine was still telling people about Jesus, that he had him killed.  Before Valentine died on February 14, he sent a message to the jailer’s daughter whom he had fallen in love with.  He signed the message ‘from your Valentine’ and this is where the sending of ‘Valentines’ began.

Because Valentine loved Jesus so much, the Catholic church named him a ‘saint’ which is what someone is called that loves Jesus and cares about others.  Each year we think about those we love and send them Valentines.  Let’s remember that the first Valentine was sent by a man who loved God with all his heart.

On Valentine’s Day we may get flowers, cards, candy, or other things from friends who love us,  but the very best gift that was sent to show love to us was sent a very long time ago.  It was Jesus who was born to one day die on the cross for the wrong things we have done.  The Bible says “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

Click on the picture to order this illustrated book about Valentine:

Activities:

  • Emphasize God’s love for them, their love for God, and love for others as you help your children make Valentines for their friends, include any of the following verses on the cards:

1 John 4:9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into this wicked world to bring to us eternal  life through his death.
1 John 4:16b:  God is love.
1 John 4:19:  We love because he [God] first loved us
1 John 5:3:  This is love for GOD:  to obey his commands.
John 15:12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
1 John 4:11  Dear friends, since God loved us as much as that, we surely ought to love each other too.

  • Make a giant heart out of red poster board (see above picture.  Write Luke 10:27 or Matthew 22:37 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” on the heart.   Cut it into age-appropriate puzzle pieces.  As you put each piece together say, “that’s not all my heart” until the puzzle is finished.  Then read the verse and encourage the child to say, “God, I love you with all my heart”.  If you have several children you can make two heart puzzles and race to see who can give God all their heart first.
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